Dear friends and ministry partners,
I consider three passages so important to remember as we advance the Gospel of Christ and His kingdom into the nations. First is Genesis 12:1-3, known as “blessed to bless” passage, which talks about God’s special calling for Abraham. The second is Matthew 28:19-20 known as the Great Commission reference. And the third is Revelation 7 that pictures “blessed nations” worshipping the Lord when He comes again.
In my next three letters here at VI, I will focus on Genesis 12:1-3. I have divided this Abrahamic covenant into three important subjects—God, Abraham and the sevenfold promise. Today, I will talk about God, the One who called Abraham. Why is “knowing” God important in claiming His promises? How does Abraham’s knowledge of God influence his exemplary obedience and the kind of faith that made him justified?
The story starts with God. He is always initiating whether in creating something or restoring a broken relationship. The Bible opens with God as the creator of the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless. Darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. By his initiative, God created order out of chaos by His mere words, “Let there be…and there was… and it was good!”
In Genesis 3, the story of the Fall tells us how Adam and Eve usurped God and His plan for them. As a result, their relationship with God, with each other and with the environment had been described as with fear, malice, domination, control, blaming, manipulation and exploitation. But it was God who initiated the restoration. God looked for them asking, “Where are you?” That meant so much to Adam and Eve. It is not “Why?” nor “Hala Ka!” This Filipino statement is being used to children as threat for judgment. “Where are you?” invites Adam and Eve to get out of hiding and to find courage for a discussion.
Right there, God initiated an ultimate solution to human problem. He promised the Seed that would come from the woman to crush the head of the Serpent. We all know that it refers to Jesus Christ by whose death and resurrection has crashed the power of Satan.
On the brink of God’s patience, He was sorry that He created human beings because they have become so wicked. God with His ingenuity, asked Noah to build an Ark, a typology of Christ, that can carry Noah’s family including his in-laws and the prescribed animals; an ark that can survive the waves and the rain for forty days and nights; an ark that can float for 120 days on water. Through the rainbow, God has promised not to judge the world again through water. Noah’s children moved to different directions after the flood. They multiplied and subdued the Earth but not establishing God-fearing or godly nations.
This was the context when God called Abraham from the land of Ur and to Haran and to the land of promise. No longer through the ark but through a family that God has made a covenant with to be “Blessed to Bless”.
This covenant is unconditional. God has declared His part but nothing is required from Abraham. The latter just responded in faith and obedience. Later in Genesis 15, God proved his covenant through a ceremony using a near east tradition, God commanded Abraham to bring animals and cut them into halves. They are arranged opposite each other. Uncut birds were also arranged in the same way.
Usually, covenant makers bind their commitment by walking together on the aisle between the dead animals and birds. If one of them failed to keep his promise, he would also suffer the same fate with those animals on the side.
But in this ceremony, there was only one that passed between the pieces, the smoking firepot with a blazing torch. Fire signifies the presence of God. He alone walked because God put Abraham to sleep. God made a covenant that bound Him to do what He has promised and to suffer the consequences should He fail to fulfill them.
Conclusion and Reflection
Genesis 12:1-3 is all about God. He is the creator of all things. He created order out of chaos. He is also an initiator. He always initiates to restore broken relationship. Right there in the scene of human rebellion, He has come up with the ultimate solution, the Seed from the woman that will crash the head of the serpent. While the Seed was on the offing and when human beings continued to rebel, God provided types of the Seed, forms of salvation and restoration. Finally, calling a family and bless them so they can be a blessing.
Our faith to claim God’s promises depends on how we know Him. If we see Him like that of a significant person in the past that has broken his promise to us, then, we would have doubts if God would be true to what He has promised. Remember, that He alone passed along the aisle of dead animals. This assures us of His commitment to bless Abraham and his descendants. If there is one thing that God can’t do, that is to lie and break His promise.
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should repent.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
(Numbers 23:19 RSV)